Rare Bar & Grill is serving up a bit of history to honor National Hamburger Day. Today, customers at its new location in New York City’s Fashion 26 Wyndham hotel on West 26th Street can get the famous “Louis Lunch” burger or Rare’s signature cheeseburger with fries and a beer for $20.10.
After that, Rare co-owner Douglas Boxer says his plan is to honor the American spirit of entrepreneurship by looking to expand the brand to additional hotel locations, in New York City and beyond
Louis Lunch is the New Haven, Conn., restaurant that claims to have created the hamburger sandwich in 1900. In response to a request for a portable meal, restaurant owner Louis Lassen put a broiled beef patty between slices of toasted white bread. Rare’s version is 6 ounces of its proprietary ground beef blend cooked in a vertical grill, topped with tomato, grilled onion and a schmear of sharp Cheddar cheese spread and served on white toast.
“I thought this was a way for us to give a nod to the history of the hamburger as well as to showcase what we do, to show that we specialize in great burgers,” says Boxer, who with co-owner Ross Lombardo opened the first Rare Bar & Grill on Bleecker Street (closed in 2009) seven years ago. “We were serving great burgers before the celebrity chefs got into it, but we don’t get the recognition,” he says, overlooking Rare’s Final Four appearance in this year’s BurgerBusiness.com Burger Brackets!
Before opening Rare Bar & Grill, Boxer was one of the co-developers of the Hale and Hearty Soup chain, now with 23 locations in the area. “Soup isn’t a fad and neither is the burger. The number of different burgers you can create is endless,” says Boxer. “We worked hard to be innovators in soup and we’ve done that with burgers, too. We’ve taken them to a new level.”
Menu choices include a cheeseburger topped with a cheese of the day from purveyor Artisanal; the M&M Burger, flambéed with bourbon; a selection of Steakhouse Burgers including a $21 Kobe Teriyaki burger, and more. The Chelsea location in the Fashion 26 Wyndham hotel and the second location, in the Affinia Shelburne Hotel (Lexington Ave. at 37th Street), have Rare View rooftop lounge and both do catering. That versatility makes the Rare Bar & Grill appealing to hotel companies, many of which have looked to bring in established brands to handle all food and beverage programs, including events, breakfast and room service, which Rare provides.
“Our goal is to open Rare Bar & Grill in hotels in New York and across the country in strategic locations. We need to get our prototype down and working efficiently first,” Boxer says of the 7,000-square-foot, 200-seat Fashion 26 Wyndham dining room plus Roof View (slightly smaller than the 4,000-square foot lounge at the Affinia Hotel location). “Clearly this concept works for hotels. Our menu is made for room service.
“Hotels want to concentrate on rooms, not F&B, and Rare Bar & Grill is a great fit. But a restaurant needs other revenue streams beyond the dining room to make money on a hotel location,” Boxer says. “And we handle in-house catering, room service and the roof bar and we serve and draw from the neighborhood, not just hotel guests.”
Boxer expects a third New York City Rare Bar & Grill to be open within a year and he envisions as many as six more could open around the country within the next several years.
Go here for Douglas Boxer’s answers to BurgerBusiness.com’s 10 Burger Questions.